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Rocket vs. Monsters recap & highlights: Laval loses Jake Evans to injury in a shutout loss to Cleveland

A promising season is coming to a stumbling end for an injury-laden Rocket team.

Club de Hockey Canadien

After punching above their weight for much of March, the Laval Rocket ended the month like a lamb. A pair of losses to North Division rivals this weekend ended their faint playoff hopes. Despite that, the arrival of Josh Brook from the CHL, along with a tryout deal for intriguing OHL forward Matthew Struthers and the signing of Cayden Primeau, has injected some much-needed energy into the Rocket.

With Connor LaCouvee back between the pipes, the Rocket were looking to snap their skid and end the season on a high note. Without Alexandre Grenier and Alexandre Alain, who were injured in the weekend games, the Rocket opted to play with 11 forwards and seven defenders, with David Sklenicka drawing back into the lineup against the Cleveland Monsters.

A lack of discipline continued to be an issue in the opening period for the Rocket, with Morgan Adams-Moisan being whistled for elbowing away from the play. Hayden Verbeek’s speed allowed the Rocket to draw a penalty of their own on the Monsters’ power play. With just an abbreviated power play, the Rocket couldn’t open the scoring.

This whole sequence played out again a few minutes later, with Nikita Jevpalovs being sent off for hooking before Verbeek’s speed led to another Cleveland penalty. This time, Alexandre Texier took the extra space at four-on-four to snipe his fourth goal in seven games since coming over from Finland.

LaCouvee was sharp to end the period and kept the Monsters’ lead at just one goal heading into the intermission.

The Rocket were handed a huge opportunity to find a tying goal early in the second as a faceoff violation penalty sent the Rocket to their first full power play of the game. A few hard shots from Xavier Ouellet were all the team managed as the play shifted back to five-on-five with Laval still trailing by one.

The Monsters added to their lead through Texier once more as Cleveland took advantage of a mistimed hit by Cale Fleury. The rookie defender came across the zone to lay a big hit on Doyle Somerby, but the Monters defencemen chipped the puck ahead to Texier, who beat Karl Alzner and LaCouvee to make it a two-goal game.

The second goal took away what little wind the Rocket had left in their sails, and that was aided along by star rookie Jake Evans leaving the game before the period ended. For good measure, Gabriel Carlsson added a third goal with under two minutes remaining to put the deficit at three goals for the Rocket heading into the break.

Derek Barach added to the Rocket’s misery as he piled on a fourth goal just 3:36 into the final period. He spun off the wall and blindly fired a weak shot on net. LaCouvee was screened by his own defender and never saw the puck until it was in the net behind him.

Laval’s frustrations boiled over with half the period gone. Michael Pezzetta bumped over Monsters goalie Brad Thiessen, which drew the ire of Tommy Cross. Cross threw Pezzetta down behind the net, and for his trouble the rookie forward jumped up and mauled the Cleveland defender in a short tilt, while drawing a power play.

After giving up a short-handed breakaway to Justin Scott, the Laval power play managed zero real pressure with the man advantage. Right after the play returned to even strength, Kevin Stenlund was left unattended in front of the net, and finished off Paul Bittner’s pass with ease, deepening the rout at Place Bell.

The game ended with a 5-0 scoreline as the injury-plagued Rocket were officially eliminated from the playoffs, and limp into the final few games of the season. It won’t be any easier as they’ll welcome the Monsters back to Place Bell for a rematch on Friday night.

Three Stars

1. Alexandre Texier (2 Goals)

2. Zac Dalpe (1 Assist)

3. Brad Thiessen (Win, 20 Saves, Shutout)